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News  Creating Possibility at MRC’s Second Annual Summit

The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission’s (MRC) second “Explore Possibility Summit” opened the doors at the Sheraton Framingham Hotel and Conference Center to more than 400 registered attendees.
9/15/2023
  • Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission
a white woman with grey hair stand at a podium. To her right is a white woman ASL translator to her left is a black man in a green jacket.

The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission’s (MRC) second “Explore Possibility Summit” opened the doors at the Sheraton Framingham Hotel and Conference Center to more than 400 registered attendees for a day full of inspiration, information, and collaboration. Individuals with disabilities came prepared to meet with MRC staff, providers, and vendors to communicate their needs and learn about existing services so they can live life on their own terms. The event demonstrated MRC’s determination to be a catalyst for careers and independent living for the people they serve now and in the future. 

During her opening remarks, MRC Commissioner Toni Wolf shared the passion of the organization for the disability community and provided encouragement to those in attendance. “The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission is here for you today and tomorrow. Don’t forget that.” 

Jake Haendel, the Summit’s keynote speaker, shared his story as the only person to survive stage four toxic progressive leukoencephalopathy. In 2017, he fell into a coma, and when he became unresponsive, medical professionals thought he was braindead. Jake could still hear. He could still think. He could still feel pain in his muscles. He just was unable to communicate with anyone. Thanks to an incredible team of medical professionals and his self-determination, Jake eventually started to communicate and focused on his recovery. Ultimately, he could move independently in his wheelchair but consistently ran into accessibility issues. Sidewalks without curb cuts. Stairs but no elevator. Restaurants with no accessible bathroom. 

These experiences led Jake to work with friends to create the Ahoi app, a Waze for accessibility. It uses crowdsourcing technology for users to share notifications of incomplete walkways or locations they might not be able to enter. “With the help of MRC, we can create a comprehensive map of Boston and Massachusetts to share with other people living with a disability, the best way they can get around their community,” Jake said. 

MRC designed breakout sessions to help foster knowledge, networking, and independence among the attendees. People with disabilities could hear from housing advocates who provided resources for them to use to rejoin their communities and live independently. Seasoned travelers with disabilities shared their tips on exploring the world and encouraging others to travel. MRC’s Job Placement Team members advised people on how to succeed in a hybrid work environment. Members of the disability community had the day to network with their peers and other professionals to help the growth of their careers. 

At the end of the Summit, guests filled the ballroom to engage with a panel featuring members of the disability community and advocates who shared their thoughts on Disability Pride. Entrepreneur Roxy Rocker said her definition of pride was, “We are passionate about living our lives.” Family Inclusion Ambassador Firdosa Hassan added, “We must create an inclusive environment for people with disabilities to achieve what’s best for them.” 

The Summit received rave reviews, with guests sharing on social media that the event was “Empowering” and allowed them to “See what MRC can do for people with disabilities.” 

  • Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission 

    The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) provides services that break down barriers and empower people with disabilities to live life in their own terms. Our programs focus on training and employment, community living, and disability determination for federal benefit programs. We are change agents and community builders. And we put the people we serve at the heart of everything we do.
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